3 April 2006
Spokesman's Noon Briefing

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL


AND THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Pragati Pascale, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.


Briefing by Associate Spokesman


**Guests at Noon


Good afternoon.  Shortly, we will be having with us, as the guests at today’s noon briefing, Max Gaylard, Director of the UN Mine Action Service, and Ambassador Ismael Abraão Gaspar Martins of Angola, co-Chair of the Forum of Mine Affected States.  They are joining us today to brief in advance of the first International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, which will be observed tomorrow, 4 April.


** Sudan


The UN Mission in Sudan today expressed its regret at the decision of the Government of Sudan not to welcome the visit of Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland.


Mr. Egeland’s flight into Sudan was not given authorization to land in Sudan yesterday.  Egeland had been scheduled to visit Sudan this week and had notified the Sudanese authorities well in advance.


Mr. Egeland had planned to visit Sudan in order to assess the humanitarian relief operation in South Sudan, as well as in Darfur, which amounts to approximately $1.5 billion annually.


We have further details in a press release from the UN Mission upstairs.


Also on Sudan, Jan Pronk, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for that country, visited Abuja, Nigeria, over the weekend, where he met with Special Envoy and chief mediator Salim Ahmed Salim about the peace talks.  He also met the main stakeholders of the different parties.


Pronk welcomed the progress made recently on security arrangements and encouraged the parties to finalize discussions on power and wealth sharing.


**Charles Taylor


The Special Court for Sierra Leone just informed us that Charles Taylor, the former Liberian President, has had his first appearance at that Court today.


He was formally presented with the charges against him, and Mr. Taylor pleaded “not guilty” to those charges.


**Security Council


As for the Security Council, China has assumed the rotating Presidency of the Security Council for the month of April, and Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya is conducting bilateral discussions with other Council members today on the Council’s work over the coming month.


The Security Council expects to hold consultations on its programme of work for April tomorrow, and once those consultations are done, the Council President intends to talk to you in this room about it.  That will take place sometime tomorrow, either before the noon briefing if they’re done in time, or after 1 o’clock, if they’re not done by noon.


**Town Hall Meeting


As part of the continuing dialogue between staff and management on the Secretary-General’s recent report on management reform, Mark Malloch Brown is currently holding a town hall meeting with staff.


This is an opportunity for staff to express their concerns directly to Mr. Malloch Brown and it is also an opportunity for senior management to clarify some of the misperceptions that may exist about the report and its goals.


This is just one event which is part of a broader effort by management to consult with staff on the implementation of the report’s recommendations.


Like I said, that’s under way right now and I believe you are able to see it in-house on UNTV.


** Iran


In response to the earthquakes that recently struck western Iran, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and UN agencies have sent relief supplies -- including water storage containers and purification units, generators, kitchen sets, tents and blankets.  Those supplies went to hard-hit areas over the weekend.  In addition, several emergency cash grants have been mobilized.


For its part, the World Health Organization has established a temporary field office in the area to help local authorities deal with medical needs, and UNICEF is assessing educational and psychological needs of the children involved.  Meanwhile, the joint UN Rapid Assessment Team reports that 50 per cent of the population in and around the city of Boroujerd has been displaced and approximately 10,000 homes have been damaged.


And we have a press release on this upstairs.


**Kosovo Status Talks


On Kosovo, the third round of direct Kosovo status talks just ended in Vienna today.  The discussions, which took place under the auspices of Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari, focused on decentralization.  The parties agreed to meet again in Vienna on 4 May.


Deputy Special Envoy Albert Rohan is giving a press conference right now in the Austrian capital and we hope to have a transcript of that available to you later on today.


**International Year of Sport


On sport, the Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly this afternoon will accept the report on the achievements of the International Year of Sport and Physical Education, which took place last year.


Making the presentation at 4 p.m. in the ECOSOC Chamber will be Adolf Ogi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Development and Peace.  Also on hand will be tennis player Roger Federer, who is a newly appointed UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and New York marathon winner Tegla Loroupe of Kenya.


The Secretary-General is expected to say that our task is to make sport an essential component of efforts to reach the world’s development goals.  We have embargoed copies of his full remarks upstairs.


**Population Commission


On migration, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of the UN Population Fund, today addressed the UN Commission on Population and Development.


In her remarks, Ms. Obaid said that, perhaps more than any other issue, international migration puts into stark relief the enormous social, political, economic and cultural transformations now occurring in a world divided between excess and need.


We have her full statement available upstairs.


**Press Conferences Tomorrow


We have a press conference tomorrow at 2:15 in this room -- Hania Zlotnik, the Director of the Population Division, together with the keynote speakers of the thirty-ninth session of the Commission on Population and Development will brief on the session’s theme, which is, as I just told you, international migration and development.


And then the guest at tomorrow’s noon briefing will be Christian Balslev-Olesen, the Acting Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, and Phillip Lazzarini, head of the Somalia Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.


Immediately after I’m done, first we’ll go to Pragati Pascale, the Spokeswoman for the President of the General Assembly.  Before that, do we have any questions?  Yes, Edie?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  On Jan Egeland, is the Secretary-General trying to contact the Sudanese Government and do you expect a statement from him?  And does anybody know where Mr. Egeland is at the moment?


Associate Spokesman:  I believe that’s because Mr. Egeland did not go in...  The place where he was last was Uganda, which is where he had been visiting.  Right now, the Secretary-General is monitoring developments and, yes, you’re right, it’s quite possible that we’ll say something further this afternoon.  But before the Secretary-General says anything further on this matter, he actually wants to contact Mr. Egeland directly.  So he’ll try to contact [Egeland] by phone and then after that we might have something further to say.


Question:  Was he given any good reason for the Sudanese not to give permission to Mr. Egeland and does that mean that he’s persona non grata from now on in Sudan?


Associate Spokesman:  It’s difficult to say whether the latter applies.  Clearly, like I said, he had applied for this visa in advance and he had his programme worked out.  We are trying to find out what the reasoning for this is.  And like I said, the Secretary-General does hope to have some direct communication with Mr. Egeland so that we can find out more about what the reasoning is.  As of right now, I can’t really say that we have any clear reason for why he was denied entry.


Question:  As far as you understand, is Mr. Egeland still in Uganda or is he...?  I know he was also supposed to go to Chad.


Associate Spokesman:  I would need to check what his travel is.  Where he was last was Uganda and, of course, he wasn’t able to go to Sudan from there.  I’ll need to see whether he’s moved on to a different country since then.


[The Associate Spokesman later announced that Mr. Egeland arrived yesterday in South Sudan on a commercial flight from Uganda.  Today, he was in Rumbek, South Sudan.]


Question:  Has Mr. Egeland been barred from any other countries?  Would you characterize this as unprecedented?


Associate Spokesman:  It’s certainly unusual, and something we hope can be resolved.  Obviously, his purpose was to deal with the relief needs in South Sudan and Darfur, which, as I just said, are needs that cost about $1.5 billion.  So there’s clearly a need and an interest for him to go about this visit.  We’re hoping that that can be cleared up.  You’re right that this is not something that happens normally.


Question:  This is about Mr. Taylor and him being indicted today.  There was this report that he was supposed to go to The Hague.  What’s happening with his transfer to The Hague?


Associate Spokesman:  What’s happening with that is that the Special Court for Sierra Leone late last week did write to the Dutch authorities, as well as to the International Criminal Court, to see whether they could arrange for the ICC’s facilities in The Hague to be used by the Special Court for Sierra Leone.  So the Special Court would try Mr. Taylor in The Hague.


At this stage, we’re waiting to see the response of the various authorities about this, and there’s the possibility that the Security Council may also want to lend its voice to this.  As you may be aware, on Friday afternoon, a draft resolution was circulated in the Security Council concerning the possible transfer of Mr. Taylor to The Hague.  We’ll wait and see how the Security Council responds and how it acts on this matter.  For now, of course, he is in Freetown and that’s where today’s event took place.


If that’s all, I wish you a good afternoon.  Pragati will come up first and then we’ll have our guests.  Thanks very much.


Briefing by Spokesperson for General Assembly President


Good afternoon.  This morning an Information Note on procedures for election of members of the Human Rights Council was issued by the Secretariat.  Member States that have chosen to announce their candidacies in writing are being listed on the General Assembly website, at www.un.org/ga/60/elect/hrc.  Sixteen Member States have thus far submitted their names.  Pledges and commitments submitted by Member States in support of their candidacy are also posted on that website.  The elections are scheduled to take place in the General Assembly on 9 May.


The Fifth Committee this morning began its consideration of management reform issues.  As Farhan mentioned, the Deputy Secretary-General, Mark Malloch Brown, introduced the Secretary-General’s report, “Investing in the United Nations:  for a stronger Organization worldwide”.  The Fifth Committee has been requested to conclude its consideration on the item as soon as possible, at the latest by 18 April.  The matter will then be sent for consideration to the plenary consultations co-chaired by Ambassador Rock of Canada and Ambassador Akram of Pakistan.


Question:  The only thing that I need to clarify is when will the nominations be closed?


Spokesperson:  There’s no deadline.


Question:  It has to be before...


Spokesperson:  This is a General Assembly election, and according to General Assembly rules of procedure, there’s no deadline set; and Member States can announce their candidacy even at the last minute, even in the actual meeting.


Question:  When is the General Assembly going to do the mandate review of every single ... when is that specifically going to happen because now we have the report but there’s no specifics in it in terms of something on women, something on Palestine, and something on...?


Spokesperson:  The mandate review will be taken up in the plenary consultations chaired by Canada and Pakistan.  I don’t think the exact date has been set yet, but it will be fairly soon.  Thank you.


* *** *



For information media • not an official record